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South American correspondent James Reynolds
"Chilean law states that anyone over the age of 70 who is facing legal action must take medical tests before a trial"
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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 19:18 GMT
Court orders more tests for Pinochet
General Pinochet
General Pinochet: No trial if declared demented
The Santiago Court of Appeals has ruled that Chile's former military ruler, General Augusto Pinochet, should undergo psychological and neurological tests before appearing in court.

If he is declared insane or demented he will be exempt from trial on human rights crimes charges.

But the general's lawyers had requested that he be submitted to a complete physical test - not just mental - to prove that his failing health prevents him from standing trial.

General Pinochet
General Pinochet returned to Chile from the UK in March
The former ruler returned to Chile in March this year after being detained in London since 1998 awaiting a UK decision on whether he should be extradited to Spain.

On that occasion the UK Home Secretary Jack Straw said that General Pinochet was not fit to stand trial.

The 84-year-old general is in the Chilean capital's military hospital said to be suffering from pneumonia.

No physical tests

General Pinochet is facing about 177 criminal complaints stemming from human rights violations allegedly committed during his 17 years in power.

Prosecution lawyers argued that, according to the law, a person could be exempt from trial only if found to be insane or demented.

But General Pinochet's lawyers say that he is not in physical condition to stand trial and that he should undergo a complete medical test.

They challenged the judge in charge of the case, Juan Guzman, who had ordered only psychological tests.

Partial win

The appeal judges accepted the defence's request in part, and ruled that Mr Pinochet should undergo additional tests, to determine whether certain conditions might be affecting his mental health.

But the judges ruled out a full physical examination.

The tests are expected to be carried out within the next 30 days.

The former ruler was recently stripped of his congressional immunity from prosecution, clearing the way for a possible trial in Chile.

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See also:

29 Oct 00 | Americas
Pinochet 'suffering from pneumonia'
25 Sep 00 | Americas
Mental health tests for Pinochet
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